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Susan McKay: Thatcher was oblivious to the price paid for her rigidity – death and destruction followed


Baroness Thatcher. Photo: PA Wire

Baroness Thatcher. Photo: PA Wire


Baroness Thatcher. Photo: PA Wire

'MAGGIE! Maggie! Maggie! Out! Out! Out!" It was the chant of my generation of protesters. No one who lived through the Thatcher era could hold sentimental notions about women in power being intrinsically fairer than men.

Thatcher was the feminist nightmare, the wolf in grandma's nightgown, rising to kill, fierce jaws lipsticked, manicured claws gripping the handbag.

She was savage and no amount of elocution lessons could quite conceal the snarl behind her infamous pronouncement on society: "There is no such thing."

There hardly was, by the time she'd finished with it.

She even demolished the parable of the Good Samaritan, claiming that nobody would remember him for his good intentions if it wasn't for the fact that, "he had money as well".

Greed was good, the fittest would survive, the rest had only themselves to blame.

In terms of sexual politics, yes, she smashed through the glass ceiling and confounded the men in grey suits. Spicegirl Geri Halliwell said of the Iron Lady yesterday that she was "the First Lady of Girl Power".

But she had no desire to help other women to follow her. The late novelist Angela Carter wrote in her book 'The Sadean Woman', published in 1979, the year Thatcher came to power: "A free woman in an unfree society will be a monster."

She was Thatcher the Milk Snatcher long before she was prime minister.

Growing up in the North in the 60s, we got our third of a pint of school milk every morning at break, by which time it had a thick head of cream and was lukewarm. education secretary Thatcher took it away in 1971.

We weren't as children impressed by regular visits to the dentist either, and simply accepted that if you were sick your mother brought you to the doctor.

I never knew how magnificent the National Health Service had been until I was rearing my own children in an Irish Republic that never had one.

Thatcher locked horns with the republican movement. "A crime is a crime is a crime," she intoned, refusing to negotiate on the demand for political status to be restored to IRA prisoners, while her army colluded almost openly with loyalist paramilitary murder gangs.

How she loved to wear a military beret and stroke a tank. She was oblivious to the price paid for her rigidity in terms of death and destruction.

The lady was not for turning.

In war, in order to defeat your enemy, you might have to suspend civil liberties for a time, she said. You didn't have to be a Sinn Feiner to recognise the dangerous wrongness of her broadcasting ban.

Living in Belfast in the 1980s, I saw Thatcher exult as she destroyed Britain, her police on horseback batoning the miners, her jubilation when the Belgrano was sunk, her welcome for Pinochet.

She broke the trade union movement, sabotaged traditional British industries and wiped out whole communities that depended on them.

Her policies caused hardship and despair in Britain's poorest communities. They also hardened attitudes of indifference among those who were doing fine.

A man who still had to take the bus in his twenties was a failure, she declared.

Only post-Thatcher could Tony Blair have presented himself as a socialist.

David Cameron is taking her vision to extremes she could hardly have imagined.

Representatives of an unemployed workers' centre got reprimanded last year for selling T-shirts with the slogan: "A generation of trade unionists will dance on Thatcher's grave."

They countered that it was just to pre-empt the gushing obituaries, the calls for a state funeral.

I say, let her rest in peace. But let us never forget: she was bad news, always.

Irish Independent